It turns out that you can no more judge a book by its title than by its cover.
I’d been put off reading the Lily Bard books because the combination of Lily Bard and the word “Shakespeare” in the title of each novel reminded me of the twee and sugar-coated Aurora Teagarden books, which I had not enjoyed.
I’m glad I overcame my prejudices and listened to the first Lily Bard novel.
There is nothing sugar-coated here. Lily Bard is a survivor. Her old life has been stolen from her. She regards her current life as successful if she gets through each day quietly, without attracting any attention.
Lily is strong, focused, observant but tight-lipped. She earns her living cleaning houses in the small town of Shakespeare. She comes alive when she is practising Karate, partly because of the joy of doing something so demanding well and partly because it stands between her and any future threat to make her a victim.
Her life changes when, walking off her insomnia in the middle of the night, she notices somebody using her garbage can cart to dump a body. Despite her best efforts to protect the anonymous life she’s built, events and her own strong will, pull Lily deeper into solving the murder, even at the cost of revealing her own past.
The plot of “Shakespeare’s Landlord” works as a conventional “whodunnit” mystery. Two things raise the book well above the average for this genre. The first is that Lily Bard is a wonderful creation: strong but vulnerable, proud but wanting to stay in the background, curious but discrete, and afraid but brave. She seemed real to me. A woman to be admired, whether there is a mystery to solve or not. The second is Charlaine Harris’ prose: she does not waste a word, does not indulge in extravagant descriptions, but the result is still a rich evocation of people and the town they live in.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I’m looking forward to the rest of the series.